Sunday, July 28, continued,
I spent the afternoon at 63 Chesterfield, doing laundry and computer work in the back garden, which is lovely. It occurred to me that I haven’t ever sent you a picture of Adam and Judy’s wonderful, very conveniently located Westmount house, so here it is. The front garden’s not too shabby, either.
The house was built in 1895 and still has its Victorian interior architectural features. It has turned into a very nice little nest egg, over the years. When they leave here, Adam and Judy will be able to live wherever they please on the proceeds.
I had a few minutes with their kids and grandkids, who show up every Sunday night for dinner, a family tradition that has never ceased over the years. I could have walked to Sheila and Bob Martin’s house, but I took the car, so I could stay at Symanskys’ a little longer, before. Sheila and Bob live on Melville, where I lived with Bob Weeks, somewhere around 1980. English Montreal is a small world. Sheila set out a Montreal summer dinner on the back balcony. No one eats inside here in the summer, if they can at all help it. When the good days are few, they are precious and treated with respect. I’m afraid it was another occasion for too much wine, but I am planning to take August off, this year, so I let myself go. That’s another thing the warm summer nights encourage, you just want them to last, so you have another glass of wine. I was a bit smarter, when I got back to Judy’s, though. We had fizzy water in her back garden.
Monday, July 29, Quelle journée!
When I took the 2020 SilverSea Montreal to Fort Lauderdale assignment, I answered the next email I got from Tourism Montreal and told them about it. The next thing I know, I had been invited to spend a day with them, touring high-end hotels. What’s not to like about that? Here’s how it unfolded.
At 9:30 am, I met Genevieve Archambault, Manager – Media and Leisure Market, for Tourism Montreal, at the Mount Stephen Hotel. It’s a new glitzy building, attached to the old Mount Stephen Club, which has been lovingly restored. We had croissants in the old bar, with its huge fireplace and wonderful carved wood, walls, floors, ceiling and trim.
She handed me over to Maxim, the hotel Front Desk Manager, who showed me a few of the very lovely rooms, varying in price from $400 to $1600/night. Then he gave me a bottle of water and I was off to my next appointment. I was meeting Magda Sabella, at the Ritz.
Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton, our Grande Dame on Sherbrooke Street, houses all the visiting dignitaries and celebrities, and was the scene of Elizabeth Taylor’s second marriage to Richard Burton. It was closed for renovations and additions about five years ago, and is back, better than ever. Magda showed me all around, including the fabulous new swimming pool, and the new condo building attached, where there’s an 8,000 square foot penthouse condo. And, yes, it’s occupied. I didn’t get to see inside.
Maria Aimen, who works for Magda, joined us for lunch, and stayed with me, when Magda had to go to a meeting. Their restaurant is now overseen by Daniel Boulud, the famous one. I remember Danièle and Jean taking me to his New York Restaurant, the year it opened, and introducing us to Daniel, himself. I think Jean knows every famous French chef in the world, personally, like I used to be able to claim I knew every chef in Napa. Anyway, the food was fabulous as was the setting. They changed a lot of things, but you can still have lunch in the garden, with the ducks.
It wasn’t just the ducks, either. Brian Mulroney, who was Prime Minister of Canada in the eighties, was there, too. When he passed our table, I greeted him and reminded him that the last time we had been together was for the opening of Repap’s paper mill in Miramichi. Repap was George Petty’s company. He flew about 50 of us to Miramichi, New Brunswick, for an incredible bash that day. I scored a lot of points with my Tandem Branch Manager that day, when I brought him along. Ours was the plant’s process control computer. Mulroo asked to be remembered to Ginger, whom he does know well, and I duly passed that on.
Maria was delightful company and I was sorry to leave, but it was all too soon off to the next luxury hotel. This one was the Sofitel, across the street and a few blocks east. I passed a couple of “Square Mile” houses, each with its plaque. The Sofitel is on the site where the Van Horne house used to be. I remember the uproar at the time it was torn down and how sad we all were. Thanks to Phyllis Lambert, and her Canadian Center for Architecture, that doesn’t happen any more in Montreal. The developers have to incorporate the historic buildings in the new. Any time Ginger wants to sell the dining rom set that came out of the Van Horne mansion, she’ll probably have a willing buyer in the Sofitel. In the meantime, I enjoy eating at it once a year in Ile Bizard.
Yolaine Masse, who does PR for Montreal’s Cruise Port, met me at the Sofitel and took me to the Old Port, where we parked her car and toured the port on foot. We stopped for a drink at Les Marchés de l’Élusier, right beside BotaBota, a Spa on an old Barge in the water. Then we joined Kim Letourneau at the W hotel, for a tour and a glass of bubbly. The bar actually specializes in perfumed gin cocktails, but I don’t like gin. It was pretty impressive, though, and Kim is a darling. She just bubbles over, like I probably did at her age. We walked to Le Saint-Sulpice in Old Montreal, for more room tours and dinner in the courtyard. We kept it simple, tuna tartare and frites for me and a duck and cheese sandwich for Yolaine. I so enjoyed meeting all these young businesswomen. Those were the days.
It was 9:30 by the time I got back to Chesterfield, and I was pretty beat, but you couldn’t beat that day. The only money I spent was a tip to the valet at the Mount Stephen when I picked up the car.
Tuesday, I did a bunch of work, before meeting Joan McGuigan again, and Roland Meunier, my old tax accountant. We toured a couple more apartments in Les Cours Mont-Royal. I wanted to see a fixer upper with a better view. It was $200,000 less. You can do a fair bit of fixing up, for that.
I got back to Chesterfield, just in time to meet Terri Azzaria, for our crew dinner at Linda and Bev’s. We were supposed to muster Theresa at her assisted living place and bring her with us. Theresa has memory issues now, and we figured she’d need help dressing. Terri called her an hour before we were to be there, and Theresa had forgotten, but was fine with it. She called again a half-hour before and Theresa begged off, saying she wouldn’t be good company. The old Theresa was always very good company.
Terri and I and Linda and Bev enjoyed a glass of wine and hors d’oeuvres on their spacious (understatement) patio, and warm dead bird. I can’t get enough of it when I am in Montreal. It is the best rotisserie chicken in the world. I swear it, and so does every other Montrealer. It was a lovely special evening, but Linda is still working, so we left early enough. The Symanskys are up late every night, so I had one more glass of wine there.
Wednesday was laundry day again, as I needed to leave for the airport at three. It was an easy drive and I was all checked in in time to have a nice Montreal smoked meat sandwich before boarding. The food at the airport is good, now that the plane food is so terrible. For a while the stuff you paid for was a little better, but I didn’t find that on SFO-YUL, so I didn’t want to take a chance. The smoked meat was scrumptious.
The flight was uneventful. I was in premium economy with a free seat beside me. That’s as good as it gets before the flatbed, which I wasn’t willing to pay for.
Thursday morning, we arrived in Amsterdam a little before eight and I was at the Hotel Avenue by 9:00 am. I used one of my breakfast vouchers immediately, and that took me to 10:00 am. The lobby was full of people waiting for rooms, and there wasn’t much hope of getting my room before three in the afternoon. There was a TV there advertising a Float SPA, where you could get the equivalent of five hours sleep, by floating for an hour. It was 20 euros away by taxi, but I was in no shape for public transportation, so I took one. I had a ten-minute spa capsule treatment to soften me up, my hour in the warm Epsom salts bath, and a one-hour massage. I got back to the hotel by four and checked in.
The hotel is funky, a number of flats and little apartment buildings, cobbled together. My single room is a garret. You literally cannot swing a cat in here, but it’s comfortable enough. I did some minimal settling in and went out for dinner. I took advice from the front desk, who walked me to the street to be able to point out directions. There was an Indian restaurant across the street, and I asked if it was any good. The gal didn’t know, but she knew there was a great one pretty close. By the time she went back in for directions to that and relayed them to me, I only knew that its name began with an “A” and that it was straight up and to the left, not the first street, but the second.
Well that was wrong, and by the time I turned on Google Maps, I was so far away, it didn’t know where it was leading me, but it did give me the rest of its name, “Ashoka”, like the luxury hotel in Delhi, I once stayed in. Google walked me all over the place. I was brain dead to start with and couldn’t match the street names worth a damn. They all had about 25 letters and may or not be where you think they might be. I walked almost all the way to Central Station, which I knew was wrong. Found another little hotel and got a little more help. This guy missed a street, too. He told me not to look at my smart phone. A lot of people get lost around here with them. The phone was of some use, though. It usually got the distance in meters right, so I knew if I was getting warm or cold. Finally, I found it and the food was excellent. I ate outside, chatting with the nice man from San Diego at the next table. I had poppadums, samosas, rice, butter chicken and garlic naan. It was a bit bland, as is the Northern Europe taste. I should have known and had them goose it up.
I got most of the way home, when I realized I had forgotten to pay. That was when I also realized that there was a much faster way in. With a couple of jogs, mind you, it was less than one average city block. They were very happy to see me, I settled the bill, walked the two minutes home, and went to bed.